SeaWorld to end killer whale breeding immediately; Loro Parque expresses its 'surprise'
'Seaworld is changing'
SeaWorld is to end its practice of killer whale breeding following years of controversy over keeping orcas in captivity.
In a statement, the company said the breeding programme will end immediately. It also announced a partnership with the Humane Society of the United States.
The company also said it is ending theatrical shows at its parks and will introduce "new, inspiring natural orca encounters".
The new shows will begin next year at SeaWorld's San Diego park, before expanding to its San Antonio park and then to the Orlando park in 2019.
"SeaWorld has introduced more than 400 million guests to orcas, and we are proud of our part in contributing to the human understanding of these animals," said Joel Manby, president and chief executive officer of SeaWorld Entertainment.
"As society's understanding of orcas continues to change, SeaWorld is changing with it. By making this the last generation of orcas in our care and reimagining how guests will encounter these beautiful animals, we are fulfilling our mission of providing visitors to our parks with experiences that matter."
Meanwhile, the Canary Islands' Loro Parque has said in a press release that it received SeaWorld's declaration" with a surprise".
Loro Parque, familiar to many Irish holidaymakers from trips to Tenerife, has an agreement with SeaWorld and maintains six orcas under its care.
It has requested a meeting with SeaWorld's management to see how the decision will affect the future of the animals.
Criticism over keeping killer whales in captivity increased in 2010 after a killer whale named Tilikum grabbed trainer Dawn Brancheau after a Dine with Shamu show and pulled her into the pool, killing her.
The death was highlighted in a documentary titled Blackfish.
Tilikum, who was also involved in the deaths of two others, is now very sick. He has been at SeaWorld Orlando for 23 years.
SeaWorld will not release any orcas into the wild, as they "would likely die", Manby said in a Los Angeles Times Op-ed published yesterday.
"For as long as they live, the orcas at SeaWorld will stay in our parks."